-An interesting take on aging romance and Brad Pitt’s newest war satire.
After really enjoying Tracy Letts in both Imperium and Indignation last year and subsequently finding out he was the writer on three excellent movie productions of plays that he wrote (Bug, Killer Joe, and August: Osage County), I knew I had to see The Lovers, an indie romantic comedy that received excellent reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival. Paired with 3-time Best Actress nominee Debra Winger, Letts delivers another good performance to continue somewhat of a late-career renaissance. Obviously, Winger is game as well, working around complex emotional states very well.
The film details the two leads as a long-married couple, their relationship having soured years ago. They both lie to each other about working late or meeting up with friends, and both are mired in years-long affairs. Winger’s Mary is involved with a down-on-his-luck writer Robert (Aidan Gillen of “Game of Thrones”), while Letts’s Michael is involved with dance instructor Lucy (Melora Walters). They both promise their lovers that they will file for divorce, but are putting it off until they reconnect with their son (Tyler Ross), who is bringing home his new girlfriend (Jessica Sula) in a few weeks. One day, after seemingly weeks without talking to one another, a spark occurs, and as the old couple falls back in love, their relationships with their side lovers sour.
I love a fresh spin on the tired genre of the romantic comedy, because it’s often that a romantic comedy can be the closest genre to real life. Although full of false glamour, the genre correctly shows the blending of real drama and comedy that real-life problems are filled with. This movie acts as a very honest look at the ebbs and flows of a real relationship, and is very honest about its approach to marriage. Both central performances are solid, and the screenplay is filled with wit and very true-to-life, approachable situations.
Up until the third act, I was feeling a much higher score for this movie, as it kept me laughing and had me engaged in the drama, but the ending feels unearned and takes away from the direction the film had been heading. It’s possible that I was interpreting the situation wrong, but the last 20 minutes feels like an indie movie ending that annoyingly pulls the rug out from under the audience just because it can, not because it makes dramatic sense for the movie. The ending was maddening and pretentious, and nearly ruins an extremely infectious and fun movie.
The Lovers (2017)
Director: Azazel Jacobs (Terri, The GoodTimesKid)
Starring: Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Aidan Gillen, Melora Walters, Tyler Ross, and Jessica Sula
RT Score: 86%
Brad Pitt has really shown an interest in doing modern military movies, and does do his best to bring his “General Glen” character to life in War Machine, a fictionalized telling of the events leading up to the firing of a major general in Afghanistan. It’s a movie entirely lacking political intrigue, and relies exclusively on the attempt to trigger negative feelings of liberal anti-war advocates everywhere. Put an incompetent general in charge with an entourage of people who support his outdated attitude, and you have a ready-made “satire” without any real attempt at an interesting screenplay.
There’s not much to say about War Machine. It’s a movie that flickers from scene to scene, whether it shows the General’s attempt to gain popular support in Afghanistan to exposing his various quirks that Brad Pitt unsuccessfully tries to turn into a nuanced performance. There’s some interesting theory about the way a General may approach such a volatile situation, but it’s too busy making fun of its characters to show any interest in the actual strategy. It makes a movie about war feel like there are no stakes, and it takes a possibly interesting concept and turns it into an overly-narrated plot-less mess. The only possible redemption is the occasional snicker because of the physical nature of Brad Pitt’s performance. It’s not worth your two hours on Netflix.
War Machine (2017)
Director: David Michod (Animal Kingdom, The Rover)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, and Ben Kingsley
RT Score: 56%